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Updated: December 18, 2009 01:54 IST

Climate talks gather momentum

Priscilla Jebaraj
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Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh speaks with journalists at the U.N. Climate Summit in Copenhagen on Thursday. Environment ministers get down to the final hours of bargaining over a climate agreement to put before U.S. President Barack Obama and more than 100 national leaders converging on the Danish capital for a global warming summit on Friday.
AP
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh speaks with journalists at the U.N. Climate Summit in Copenhagen on Thursday. Environment ministers get down to the final hours of bargaining over a climate agreement to put before U.S. President Barack Obama and more than 100 national leaders converging on the Danish capital for a global warming summit on Friday.

After three days of deadlock, the United Nations climate talks here are moving again, propelled by a quickly approaching deadline, the prospect of 130 world leaders in the same city, and “sustained pressure” by major developing countries, including India.

With less than 24 hours left before the end of the summit, negotiators are back to working on both the Kyoto Protocol and long-term action draft texts. In other encouraging signs for the fate of the Copenhagen summit, both China and India have softened their language on transparency about their commitments, signalling some movement toward consensus, even as the United States joined a fund to provide $100 billion in annual funding to vulnerable developing countries after 2020 — albeit with some strings attached.

“Today’s big achievement is that we are back to negotiating two texts... The two-track negotiating process is back on stream,” said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, speaking to Indian reporters on Thursday evening. “I think the sustained pressure brought to bear by the developing countries has paid off.”

For the last few days, there has been concern that rich nations were pushing for a single new agreement, ignoring the Kyoto Protocol, which mandates legal commitments by developed countries alone to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Kyoto is not out of intensive care,” said Mr. Ramesh, “but it now has an oxygen cylinder.”

On Thursday morning, delegates from a small group of rich nations led by the Danish hosts and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were working on a secret ‘Danish draft’ which, it was feared, would provide a mandate for a new agreement on emission cuts from developing economies as well. However, a meeting of major developing nations with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen dealt the death blow to the document. “[He] has assured me that the Danish draft is buried. It is out of the question,” said Mr. Ramesh. Instead, world leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is arriving here, will adopt a statement based on the two texts still being negotiated.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered a boost to the talks with the announcement that Washington will join the $100 billion fund originally announced by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. However, her announcement had certain conditions — that “all major economies would stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation.”

This call for transparency — in terms of international monitoring and verification — is a major sticking point for all major developing countries, including India and China. However, there seems to be some movement toward consensus on this, with both China and India.

Dangerous portent

A confidential U.N. document has been leaked, revealing that the combined pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions so far will actually lead to a rise in global temperatures by 3 degrees celsius.

In a damning indictment of the gap between rhetoric and reality, the draft document says the present pledges are up to 4.2 gigatonnes short of the emission cuts needed to remain below a two degree rise in temeratures, which all countries say they are committed to.

“Unless the remaining gap of around 1.9-4.2Gt is closed and Annexe 1 parties [countries] commit themselves to strong action before and after 2020, global emissions will remain on an unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal or above 550 parts per million, with the related temperature rise around 3°C,” it says.

The authenticity of the paper, which is available with several NGOs, delegates and major news outlets, has not been independently verified at the time of going to print. It was reportedly drafted by the UNFCCC secretariat and is dated 11p.m. on December 15. It is marked “Do not distribute” and “Initial draft”.

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